Mirren at the MoÃ«t British Independent Film Awards on 7 December 2014
|Born||Helen Lydia Mironoff
26 July 1945
Hammersmith, London, England
|Alma mater||New College of Speech and Drama|
|Spouse(s)||Taylor Hackford (m. 1997)|
I'm not strong-willed, actually. I'm a complete pushover. I love to be told what to do.
Nothing is quite so emotional and passionate as what goes on inside of a family. People are driven to distraction by a father or a mother or a husband. Or a child.
People with Parkinson's are not some weird people on the edge of human experience.
I think every woman in our culture is a feminist. They may refuse to articulate it, but if you were to take any woman back 40 years and say, 'Is this a world you want to live in?' They would say, 'No.'
People often ask me whether I prefer theater or film, and the answer is that I prefer the one I'm not doing: The grass is always greener.
I don't get to play the same role over and over in different movies. The roles that I get to play are quite varied, which is great.
When I came into the acting profession, it was quite hierarchical. You didn't sit at the same table as the leading actor. Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud… these were very, very intimidating and powerful people.
Parkinson's is a slow but inevitable process. It's hard living with it on a daily basis. The difficulty facing people with it is that they never quite know 'Can I or can't I do this today?'
I love men that love women. Morgan Freeman, who I worked with on 'RED,' was very flattering to me. But he is flattering to all women. He is a woman-charmer.
I am not too keen on my nose, I don't like my knees, I hate my ankles, I am unsure about my behind, I don't like my legs at all. I am not too sure about my chin, my forehead is a bit dodgy. But, overall, I can live with it.
I was never a left-winger, actually. I was a pretend left-winger because it was more interesting than being a right-winger.
I couldn't handle the rules the Queen has to live by at all, and very few of us could. It's a golden cage, really. You're never alone in that role – you are always surrounded by security.
I don't like the word 'strong,' because a strong character is never an interesting character. A character is made interesting by their vulnerabilities and their weaknesses.
Two phrases I hate in reference to female characters are 'strong' and 'feisty.' They really annoy me. It's the most condescending thing. You say that about a three-year-old. It infantilises women.
The whole thing of clothes is insane. You can spend a dollar on a jacket in a thrift store. And you can spend a thousand dollars on a jacket in a shop. And if you saw those two jackets walking down the street, you probably wouldn't know which was which.
I have to say, without sounding like a total tosser, that everything I've learned in life, and that has taken me out of my natural interior life, has been with men. They exposed me to things that I wasn't aware of. I learned from all the guys.
It was never my intention to marry anybody. Economics are basically the only reason to get married, but I'm very glad I did it.
The great marriages are partnerships. It can't be a great marriage without being a partnership.
It'll be the Internet and piracy that will kill film. There's a philosophy that the Internet should be free, but the reality is that piracy will destroy the film industry and film as an art form because it's expensive to make a movie. Maybe you'll have funky little independent movies, and it'll go back and then start up again some other way.
I don't think it's good to try and change anyone. The trick and the mystery – of relationships and life in general – is to learn to live with the bits you don't like.
They're called 'action scenes' because they do the acting for you. You don't have to act in action scenes. The action does it all for you. It's great.
I've been working every year since I started acting, and I got many awards before I won the Oscar for 'The Queen.'
I do think it's well over-time to have a female Doctor Who. I think a gay, black female Doctor Who would be the best of all.
I remember thinking, when I was in my early 30s, that this is the best age to be, and I still believe your 30s are a wonderful time.
I'd like to see a much more open Monarchy, myself. I used to think they were completely useless and we should get rid of them. I don't necessarily feel that way anymore. I'm still ambivalent, I still loathe the British class system, and the Royal family are the apex of the British class system.
I still suffer terribly from stage fright. I get sick with fear. Not every night, but at the beginning and on occasion – not necessarily when I'm expecting it. You just have to cope with it – take it on the chin and work through it, trying to use the adrenalin to perform.
My parents believed in education and economic security, and I thank them for it. Because I think that's part of what's made my life stable. It was instilled in me. You have to be able to pay your bills. You do not get into debt. And I never have been.
Humor in a relationship is so important. Many women will say that. Some say, 'If they can make you laugh, it's the sexiest thing on earth.'
People become more interesting from about 25 – they develop character and their personalities come out.
I'm not a republican any more. Not so voraciously anyway – I'm not in favour of the concept of monarchy, but I do see the good in it if there's a good person in the role.
I'm not a communist, of course. But I do think that everything is down to economics. Capitalism doesn't change.
It's so hard when you're young to look at older people and understand that they have been where you are. It's the weirdest thing. You just can't get your head around that, can you? You can't get your head around the fact that someone who is 60 was once 16, if you're 16. But the fact is they have been, and they remember it.
When women get great roles in life, they start to get great roles in films and TV. Look at Janet Reno, Madeleine Albright, and Mrs. Thatcher. Because those images are coming at us in life, they are reflected in acting.
Gardening is learning, learning, learning. That's the fun of them. You're always learning.
I met with Hitchcock when I was a very, very young actress just starting out and he was making 'Frenzy' in London and I was sent along to meet with him. He was very, very unimpressed with me and I have to say, I was rather unimpressed with him – but only because I was an arrogant, ignorant young actress.
I don't share lots of the phobias that horror movies tap into. I don't mind spiders or snakes or darkness.
Where you grew up becomes a big part of who you are for the rest of your life. You can't run away from that. Well, sometimes the running away from it is what makes you who you are.
I have done film, television and theatre – all at a pretty substantial level – I don't think it's possible for American actors to do that.
American actors who voice animated movies are so brilliant at it, because by the nature of American speak, it's full of energy and full of commitment. And as a British actor, we have to kind of learn that.
The most important thing is to bring people with Parkinson's into our world and for the public to have a real understanding of it, as they're beginning to have with autism.
I have never in my life found myself in a situation where I've stopped work and said, 'Thank God it's Friday.' But weekends are special even if your schedule is all over the place. Something tells you the weekend has arrived and you can indulge yourself a bit.
I resent having witnessed the survival of some very mediocre male actors and the professional demise of the very brilliant female ones.
I am so happy that I didn't have children. Well, you know, because I've had freedom. And I've so loved my freedom.
My dad's Russian. My mother's English. I would say my bottom half is Russian.
I've always found as an actress that the best thing to do in film or TV or theater is just to lose yourself in it. Think of the story, the character, the worlds we're in, and forget everything else.
The role of women has always been undervalued in the spy world, always undermined in terms of recognition. Unfairly so. It's a world that needs women.
You can't control how other people see you or think of you. But you have to be comfortable with that.
I drink just as much tea when I'm in Los Angeles as I do when I'm in London. I take my tea bags with me wherever I go.
The whole 'R' rating depends on a strange sort of fantasy land where all adults are responsible people, and children only ever go to the cinema with their parents.
Any role that's proactive is a great role, and action roles are by their very nature proactive. You get to do stuff. I hate sitting in a corner – I'd much prefer an action role in a popcorn movie rather than pining in a corner not doing anything.
At the time of the Silver Jubilee, I was a grumpy anti-monarchist. I didn't celebrate and was appalled by the celebrations. In my idiocy, I missed out! I feel completely differently now compared with that time.
I think of myself as being a bit of a wimp deep down – a bourgeois wimp – and I'm fighting that. I think all Brits are, maybe.
I'll tell you what me scares me is plastic. Plastic bags and plastic bottles and these things. Why does my water have to be in a bloody plastic bottle? The landfill and the ocean. And I don't know, I'm just terrified with the proliferation of plastic.
There is that awful moment when you realize that you're falling in love. That should be the most joyful moment, and actually it's not. It's always a moment that's full of fear because you know, as night follows day, the joy is going to rapidly be followed by some pain or other. All the angst of a relationship.
We're all idiots when we're young. We don't think we are, but we are. So we should be.
Wherever I am in the world, if I get free time when I'm filming I always hire a car, take to the road, drive for miles and explore.
I'm terrified of learning lines, and I've always been terrified that I won't learn them.
Working away from my husband for long periods is good and bad. It stops us taking each other for granted and gives us space, but I miss him terribly.
Girls go out together to see a chick flick or something. I loathe, I hate, chick flicks.
I don't believe that if you do good, good things will happen. Everything is completely accidental and random. Sometimes bad things happen to very good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people. But at least if you try to do good things, then you're spending your time doing something worthwhile.
I am British. I love Britain for all its faults and all its virtues. My husband is American and I am largely based in Los Angeles, but whenever someone asks me where home is, I automatically say 'London.'
All you have to do is to look like crap on film and everyone thinks you're a brilliant actress. Actually, all you've done is look like crap.
I think we all have a dream of what it would be like not to work and grow heirloom tomatoes, and I do have that dream. It would be lovely. I do love gardening and all of that, but I do love my work.
Sometimes nudity is sexy. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes being clothed is more sexy than being nude.
I think a lot of my work has been a weird attempt to liberate myself, but it's not altogether successful.
I can't say 'no' to an interesting role. I always tell my husband, 'That's it, I quit, I've done all I wanted,' and he's just like, 'Yeah, yeah. Sure.'
I learned quite early on in life that we are all two people. And one of those people none of us will ever know.
Painters hate having to explain what their work is about. They always say, 'It's whatever you want it to be' – because I think that's their intention, to connect with each person's subconscious, and not to try and dictate.
It's a mystery, that thing about chemistry, because often people who hate each other in real life and hate each other on the set have great chemistry on the screen. And people who love each other in real life and love each other on the set have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever.
There's no good way to waste your time. Wasting time is just wasting time.
I think it's always hard for people to get their head around the fact that populist, commercial films can also actually be great works of art.
There's a scary moment when you realise you're no longer the youngest person in the room. Especially if you've been a successful young person. That's followed, of course, by the realisation that you're actually the oldest person in the room.
I always love working with young actors, because there's always something to learn. It's always exciting to see the next generation and how they approach things and what's great about them and what's not so great about them.
Everyone wants to be a movie star or a model, to be in the papers, but few realise just what hard work it is, getting up early, and so on.
I was part of the first generation of girls and women to be educated and go to grammar school even if we didn't have much money. Then that generation went, 'OK, great', and went into medicine or the police, and hit this wall of discrimination from older men who hadn't caught up.
I have no maternal instinct whatsoever. Motherhood holds no interest for me.
I believe kids shouldn't be taught Shakespeare. They should experience it first by seeing a great production.
I don't throw a lot of parties. I find throwing parties a bit intimidating.
There's nothing sexy about doing a nude scene. It's rather uncomfortable. I like dressing up rather than dressing down.
Hollywood is a very small world; the people who matter matter, and the people who don't matter are just like nothing.
I believe in meditation – it's a good tool to centre yourself, but unfortunately, I'm too lazy to do it. It's very hard work, and I prefer to watch 'Nothing To Declare' on TV!
The control and understanding of our personal fears is one of the most important undertakings of our lives.
I'm under the impression that this notion of decency is disappearing from our society where conflicts are made worse on cinema and on television, where people are nasty and cruel on the Internet and where, in general, everybody seems to be very angry.
You write your life story by the choices you make. You never know if they have been a mistake. Those moments of decision are so difficult.
Patience can be a good thing – but not necessarily. Sometimes it's not so bad to be impatient. I'm a little bit too polite.
I am quite spiritual. I believed in the fairies when I was a child. I still do sort of believe in the fairies. And the leprechauns. But I don't believe in God.
I can't help being Christian because I was brought up in Britain, and the morality of Christianity is part of the fabric of this country.
When you do a voice in an animated film, you don't see the finished product at all. You're not animating. You're not doing the voice on the finished product. You're doing the voice long before.
I am in a fabulously lucky position in that I get to wear beautiful, beautiful gowns for functions, which I can then give back. That way, they're not sitting in my wardrobe with me looking at them and feeling guilty. I love that, and I think when people have a fabulous function to go to, I'd recommend renting.
Flesh sells. People don't want to see pictures of churches. They want to see naked bodies.
There isn't a King Lear for women, or a Henry V, or a Richard III. You reach a level where you can handle that stuff technically and mentally, and it's not there.
What's great in the modern world is that it's becoming easier and easier for people to create without having access to large sums of money. They need access to certain technologies, but the cost is far less than it used to be.
I still have a Gypsy sense of adventure. I don't think I have slept in the same bed for more than three or four months my whole life. I am always planting vegetables that I never get to eat and flowers that I never see flower. I have always moved around the world.
When you're young, you wonder what all these old people are droning on about, trying to impart their wisdom. It's not relevant to you because being young is such a specific thing. Thank God for that. Thank God for the young people who go out and demonstrate against rampant capitalism or whatever.
When you're 16, 30 seems ancient. When you're 30, 45 seems ancient. When you're 45, 60 seems ancient. When you're 60, nothing seems ancient.
I prefer the finesse of French humour. English humour is more scathing, more cruel, as illustrated by Monty Python and Little Britain.
I've always been battling against my sense of dignity and refinement. I was embarrassed by any bodily functions when I was younger. I could never even blow my nose.